Operation Tannenberg


The first of genocide committed by the germans was on the polish people. This genocide was called operation Tannenberg, part of the generalplan ost. Operation tanneberg was aimed at the elite of Poland in order to prevent revolts in occupied Poland. A second aim was the germanization of Poland. In total it is estimated that 60.000 people died during operation Tannenberg and 40.000 during later operation AB. It was the first time einsatzgruppen and gas-vans were seen in action and it let to an new modus operandi for the german to kill people. The victims were collected on a list prior to the war. These names were collected by the secret police, the gestapo, and germans living in Poland. This list is called the proscription list, sonderfahndungsbuch Poland.

Operation Tannenberg during the invasion of Poland

Tannenberg consisted of 3 phases. the first phase was the pre-war phase in which 2.000 polish people living in Germany were secretly arrested and killed. The second phase were the execution of polish elite during the invasion of Poland. During the second phase also disabled people and hospitalized people were killed. This was not part of the sonderfahndungsbuch order, but decided on by the einsaztgruppen themselves. Besides the einsatzgruppen also auxiliary troops consisting of germans living in Poland were active. These were called the selbshutz, self-protection units. However, these units were to cruel and disorganized during the operation and got an infamous reputation. After the invasion of Poland these units were splits up and devided between regular units.

einsatzgruppen operation tannenberg

Operation Tannenberg after the invasion of Poland

The third phase of the operation is conducted after the invasion of Poland. This phase is called the intelligentaktions. During this period the killings were less random but specifically aimed at arresting potential enemies of the state and executing them publicly. This action continued with the AB action. During this period the enemies of the state were no longer mainly executed, but most of them were arrested and brought to concentration camps. A camp especially opened for this aim was the later extermination camp Auschwitz. Also a extermination camp was set-up to aid the extermination of polish people and aid the germanization of these regions: extermination camp chelmno.

operation tannenberg clerk roundup

Einsatzgruppen active during operation tannenberg

Einsatzgruppe I, commanded by SS-Standartenführer Bruno Streckenbach, acted with 14th Army

Einsatzgruppe II, SS-Obersturmbannführer Emanuel Schäfer, acted with 10th Army

Einsatzgruppe III, SS-Obersturmbannführer und Regierungsrat Herbert Fischer, acted with 8th Army

Einsatzgruppe IV, SS-Brigadeführer Lothar Beutel, acted with 4th Army

Einsatzgruppe V, SS-Standartenfürer Ernst Damzog, acted with 3rd Army

Einsatzgruppe VI, SS-Oberführer Erich Naumann, acted in Wielkopolska

Einsatzgruppe VII, SS-Obergruppenführer Udo von Woyrsch and SS-Gruppenführer Otto Rasch, acted in Upper Silesia and Cieszyn Silesia

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